text: Nicky Nasrallah | photography: Stephen Caissie 

For most people, feminism is a scary word.

Meet three comedians who are trying to change that. Jess Beaulieu, Natalie Norman, and Catherine McCormick invited me over to sit with them and discuss the focus of their upcoming show, Lady Tapes, happening at Comedy Bar this Sunday, November 17th at 8pm. Catherine was unable to make it, which was good news for her fellow comics, who had a lot to say.

Quip Nicky Nasrallah: What are we doing here? Why did you bring me to this home?

Jess Beaulieu: Umm…This is an intervention. It’s just the two of us and Natalie’s never met you, so…By the way, you two have so much in common.

QNN: Do you also love the The Golden Girls and The Young and The Restless?

Natalie Norman: Well, I don’t love Y&R, but I’ve met one of the actors at a showing in, like, a plaza in the middle of nowhere. 

QNN: I’ve been to many of those things. But about this show you’re doing…

JB: Natalie, Catherine and I are doing a taping at Comedy Bar. We’re bringing in some videographers to tape our sets and we’re trying to make it a big deal.

QNN: Does it have a title?

JB: It’s called Lady Tapes. Steph Tolev is hosting and Danz Altvater is doing a quick set. So, it’s all women on the show.

NN: For me it’s really exciting because I love all these women and I feel that people need to hear their type of stand-up. They’re unique.

QNN: What makes you a feminist?

NN: Oh, Lord, that’s a loaded topic.

QNN: Because people hear feminist and they feel it’s off-putting.

NN: It is off-putting! I think it’s a really scary term for a lot of people. For women as well. I have a fair amount of friends who say they hate that term and don’t identify with it. What is it for you, Jess?

JB: I consider myself an activist of sorts, and an advocate for women’s rights. That’s something I’m very passionate about. I’m very supportive of women and their goals and careers. I think that equality hasn’t been achieved yet, and we’re still fighting for it. And I think that people who say to people that feminism isn’t needed are very ignorant.

NN: That drives me crazy. “Oh, we’ve already reached it. Everyone’s equal!”

JB: “Yeah, you can wear pants. You should calm down.” We are so lucky to be living in Toronto. I mean, equality has not been achieved in Canada, but for the love of God, in India, the Middle East, so many parts of Asia…It’s atrocious. Rape is legal within marriage in some countries still, and that’s crazy! Another thing that drives me crazy is when certain women say, “Well, I’ve never experienced sexism in my life, so thus it must not exist.”

NN: I’ve been confronted by male comics asking me how I’ve become a feminist. How can I not be a feminist when every time I go up on stage and talk about losing weight and how I feel comfortable with my body now, and then I go offstage and hear a male comic say, “I would have fucked you when you were fat.” You don’t say that shit to other co-workers. Granted, I have teetered on the line of being in someone’s personal space, but I’m learning.

QNN: But we comics are sexual beings and we’re around each other more than anyone else…

NN: I’ve apologized for my mistakes. It’s about acknowledging that you’ve done something wrong and trying to get passed it.

JB: I don’t sexually harass people. And men do not comment on my breasts, because they’re too scared I would like straighten them out on the spot and rip off their balls. I have a reputation now among other comics. People think I’m a rancid bitch. Which is great, I think. I’m really happy with that status.

QNN: How do you work your feminist material into your stand-up without alienating your audience?

NN: It’s hard. I used to do this joke and after I would ask the audience “Who here is a feminist?” And I swear to God, once someone shouted, “Get off the stage, bitch!”

JB: I think is has a lot to do with not attacking anybody in the audience who does not agree with you. And not coming off as angry. Because that’s something a lot of people associate with feminism; is angry ranting. It helps to do it from a light hearted perspective.

NN: At the end of the day they’re jokes, so you wanna make them fun.

JB: You don’t wanna make people feel like shit if they don’t agree with you. It’s all about opening their minds to other possibilities. Humour is a great tool for that.

NN: It’s about changing the discourse. Look how smart I sound!

JB: Shifting the paradigm. But anyway, a lot of these jokes, I find still get laughs.

NN: Well, when I first started doing stand-up, I was told a bunch of things I wasn’t allowed to talk about, mostly by other females. They said I’m not allowed to talk about my period. Which, for me, is a big deal because I’ve had mine since I was ten. I only recently started doing period jokes, and I did it in front of a predominantly male audience, and they were loving it. I think it’s the idea of being able to talk about what relates to me…

JB: You can talk about whatever you want and we have no judgement. 

See Lady Tapes live on  Sunday November 17th at 8 pm at The Comedy Bar, 945 Bloor St. West, Toronto. Price $5


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